In The Know: Critics say new voting law is essentially a poll tax; proposed budget built as veto proof; and more

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Note: During the pandemic, OK Policy will be publishing In The Know on Saturdays and Sundays in order to keep our subscribers up to date on the latest information going on in the state and the nation.  

Oklahoma News

New voting law likened to poll tax by critics: A new controversial law requiring voters to make copies to cast a ballot is a de facto poll tax, critics said Friday. Senate Bill 210, which Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt quickly signed into law Thursday afternoon. The measure cropped up less than 48 hours after Oklahoma’s highest court ruled against the state. [CNHI] U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn knocks Legislature on voting bill, while GOP hopefuls back ballot requirements. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Lawmakers had the opportunity this week to take a stand for election integrity. They chose not to.

Oklahoma Legislature’s budget bill was crafted with possible veto override in mind: The state House and Senate passed the 2021 budget bill by veto-proof margins — and they may need them. Gov. Kevin Stitt was not involved in putting together the $7.6 billion bill and has not said whether he will sign it. That leads some to believe he might veto all or some of Senate Bill 1922, forcing the Republican legislative leadership to decide whether to try to override a governor of their own party. [Tulsa World

Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s number of positive COVID-19 cases now stands at 4,424, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [The Oklahoman] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Health News

Oklahoma starts to reopen, as battle against the coronavirus in nursing homes mounts: Over the last month, more than 110 deaths and 1,000 cases have been linked to care facilities. The residents and staff of these facilities make up 23 percent of Oklahoma’s known COVID-19 cases and 45 percent of reported deaths, according to data from the state health department. [The Frontier]

State Government News

Gary Cox lacks votes for commissioner of health confirmation: Gary Cox has been serving as commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health since Gov. Kevin Stitt nominated him in September, but Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Greg McCortney says “a whole lot of bad circumstances” will prevent Cox from being confirmed for the position by the State Senate. [NonDoc]

Former lobbyist, ex-lawmaker hired to lead transparency office: A legislative committee on Friday hired a former lobbyist and legislator to run a new state entity devoted to creating more transparency in state spending. The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency Oversight Committee, made up of House and Senate members, hired former State Chamber of Oklahoma lobbyist Mike Jackson to serve as the entity’s inaugural director. In a joint statement, the four Democrats ⁠— Sens. Julia Kirt and Michael Brooks and Reps. Cyndi Munson and Meloyde Blancett ⁠— on the committee said the work of LOFT and the oversight committee needs to be conducted with more openness and accountability.[The Oklahoman

Oklahoma revenue collections fall $502.5M due to coronavirus: Revenue collections in Oklahoma fell by half a billion dollars in April from a year ago as an economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic swept the state. Gross receipts fell $502.5 million to just under $1.1 billion, down 31.8% from April 2019. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State lawmakers may cut Oklahoma’s affordable housing tax credit in half: Oklahoma lawmakers could cut in half a tax credit meant to encourage affordable housing developments. House Bill 2760 would lower the annual cap on the credit from $4 million to $2 million. Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, said an incentive evaluation commission estimates the credit will lose Oklahoma $106.1 million over 10 years. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Capitol Insider: Lawmakers move quickly to finish work on time (audio): The Oklahoma Legislature is required by law to finish each legislative session by the end of May. KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley discuss how they are moving quickly to complete “the people’s business” on schedule. [KGOU]

Criminal Justice News

Muskogee police release video depicting fatal shooting of Tulsa homicide suspect: Muskogee police released body camera footage Friday of Monday’s fatal officer-involved shooting during the attempted arrest of a Tulsa homicide suspect. Officers fatally shot Demontre Bruner, 21, during a confrontation in Muskogee about 2 a.m. Monday. Police said Bruner fired at officers, who returned fire. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma sets another record for new jobless claims: After three weeks of declining new unemployment claims, Oklahoma set another new record during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 68.237 initial claims last week, almost 16,000 more than the week prior and about 6,500 more than the previous record, set the week ending April 4. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association suspends tribes that signed compacts with Gov. Stitt: The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association has suspended the membership of two tribes that signed controversial compacts with Gov. Kevin Stitt, it announced Thursday. [Tulsa World] The depth of the bad feelings the gaming compacts have created between Oklahoma tribes became clear this past week when other gaming tribes voted to suspend the Comanche and Otoe-Missouria tribes from membership in the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma down to only 13 active rigs…US count drops by 34: The number of active rigs in Oklahoma and the rest of the U.S. dropped even further in the past week, leaving only 13 drilling for new energy in Oklahoma and 374 nationally. [OK Energy Today]

Regulator says emergency shut-in order was wrong: Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony is now speaking publicly for the first time since he voted last month against allowing a Tulsa oil company to shut-in its oil production because of the COVIS-19 outbreak and the following oil crisis. [OK Energy Today]

Education News

OU loses millions because of COVID-19: The University of Oklahoma has sustained significant financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, officials say. Interim President Joseph Harroz reported that the Norman campus lost $4.2 million from tuition and food refunds, cancellation of events and extra cleaning expenses. A loss of patient services and elective procedures cost the OU Health Sciences Center about $10.5 million. [The Oklahoman] While the regents addressed all the other items on their agenda Friday, they delayed agenda item 20 until Saturday’s meeting. The item includes a discussion of Interim President Joe Harroz’ performance, along with “potential action concerning the hiring and employment of the President of the University of Oklahoma.” [Norman Transcript] Rogers State University staff to return to work after next week. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Public Schools to offer summer academy, senior boot camp virtually in continuation of distance learning: Tulsa Public Schools will continue to implement distance learning and offer virtual programming opportunities this summer in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The district announced its plan on Friday to host a virtual summer academy in addition to senior boot camp and other at-home activities to encourage student learning during the extended break. [Tulsa World]

General News

Americans more worried about reopening too quickly than not opening quickly enough: As states around the country begin reopening, a new survey suggests the majority of Americans are more worried about social distancing measures being loosened too quickly than are worried about the country not reopening quickly enough. Nearly three out of four Americans say they are more concerned by the government lifting social distancing restrictions too quickly. That’s more than double the 29% who say they are worried restrictions are not being lifted quickly enough. [USA Today via The Oklahoman]

Cherokee Nation announces phased reopening for government offices starting June 1: Cherokee Nation will reopen its government offices in a phased plan that incorporates social distancing and has employees returning on staggered shifts starting June 1. [CNHI] Cherokee Nation Principal Chief: Essential relief dollars finally come to Indian Country. [CNHI]

High court to hear McGirt case Monday: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in a case that could have historic implications for Native American tribes and the state of Oklahoma. The Supreme Court’s decision in the McGirt case ultimately could affect not only legal boundaries and jurisdictions of the Creek Nation but also those of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole nations, as the case also raises questions about whether original reservations of those tribes were ever formally disestablished. [Journal Record]

Concerts on hold until limits relaxed: Oklahoma is allowing concert halls, entertainment venues, theaters and museums to cautiously reopen in Phase I. But not so fast. Fans can’t just grab 18,000 of their closest family members and crowd into the nearest venue. There’s the 10-person rule. [Journal Record]

Opinion: Oklahoma cannot let mob rule win out over reason in COVID-19 response: COVID-19 and the rules that sprang up to keep people from sucking a virus into their lungs tell us a lot about what kind of people live in our vicinity, and it points to a phenomenon more insidious than the virus itself. We live in a state filled with people who do not want to be told what they can and cannot do, and their reward is the right to own and carry as many guns as they can fit on their bodies. [Opinion / OKC Free Press]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Norman mayor amends city plan to allow places of worship to reopen [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma attorney general, U.S. Attorney weigh in on plan to keep Norman churches closed [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa County gauging how to distribute $114 million in federal coronavirus relief funding [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa parks plans unlikely to be derailed by virus [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Arnall Family Foundation awards $300,000 in grants to respond to COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“They never act that quickly when it comes to other issues. It hasn’t been a good week for democracy in Oklahoma.”

-Jan Largent, president of the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, speaking about lawmakers fast-tracking legislation that placed unneeded barriers to voting safely [CNHI]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s known COVID-19 cases linked to long-term care facilities. Additionally, 45 percent of reported deaths are connected to the state’s long-term care facilities. 

[Source: The Frontier]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, many imigrants are excluded from federal relief efforts: Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, many immigrants have been right at the frontlines of caring for COVID-19 patients and doing crucial work in communities so that others can shelter at home. Unfortunately, despite their significant contributions, many immigrant workers and their families won’t benefit from the COVID-19 relief packages Congress passed and the president signed into law in March. [Community Catalyst]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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